Warrior Prophets 2: Chapter 4 – Bloody Brothers

Warrior Prophets 2: Chapter 4

Bloody Brothers

“Will you not deliver these criminals to us!?” Prince Elimelech ofJudahyelled across the future battleground, with the summer morning’s dawn.

“Never!” Prince Giltar of Benjamin replied, sword unsheathed, as he faced four hundred thousand soldiers, with little over twenty thousand at his back, in front of the city ofGivaah.

“We outnumber you twenty to one!” Elimelech pressed. “All the tribes of Israel are assembled against you. We are overflowing with soldiers. Give up the criminals and avoid this bloodshed.”

“It is you who is bringing bloodshed upon us. They are our tribesmen, our prisoners. Only by force will you ever retrieve them.”

“That man is stubborn,” Elimelech turned aside angrily to Boaz.

“One might say the same of you, uncle,” Boaz murmured.

“Now is not the time for second-guessing! We are committed to this path, but this assembly is truly too unwieldy. Where is that reclusive priest? I would seek God’s blessing and direction before we start. Pinhas? Where have you hidden?” Elimelech sought Pinhas amongst the princes and generals standing behind Elimelech as they faced the city of Givaah.

“I am here, Prince of Judah,” Pinhas stated stoically, as he approached in his full High Priest vestment. “What do you seek of me?”

“One of our tribes will be sufficient to overwhelm the Benjaminite rabble. Who should take the lead against them?”

“You are asking me this in my formal capacity?” Pinhas raised an eyebrow.

“Of course! What does God say?”

“Please formulate your question again, as the normative leader of most of the tribes ofIsrael.”

“Who shall go up first from amongst us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?”

“That is your question?”

“Yes, damn it! That is the question!”

The sadness in Pinhas’ eyes deepened. He closed his eyes and stood motionless in his rich blue raiment. His multicolored breastplate shone in the morning sun. The twelve precious stones, each stone representing a Tribe of Israel, glowed with an inner fire. The names and letters carved into the stones refracted the warm light. Suddenly certain letters lit up brightly, shining as a star on a moonless night. The letters flashed in a certain sequence. Pinhas nodded his head as if he had already anticipated the answer.

“Judah shall lead,” Pinhas stated with an ominous finality.

“Good,” Elimelech smirked tightly and faced the princes and generals of the united tribes ofIsrael. “You heard the priest! The tribe of Judah shall lead! The rest of you, take your forces and keep this perimeter secure. We shall move upon Givaah immediately, break through their defense and return with the criminals by noon. Dismissed!”

Boaz, troubled by the entire exchange, closed his eyes, drawing on the inner “sight” he had not used in many years.

He was struck by the black sadness in Pinhas. The High Priest’s white aura of inner peace was struggling with spreading tentacles of despair. Pained by the sight, Boaz turned to Elimelech. The Prince of Judah had a noble aura of a deep and regal purple, but with a growing red bloodlust that was overcoming his normally calm blue demeanor.

Boaz tried to perceive the emotions of the assembled tribes of Israel. He saw a dark red bloodlust in the troops that exceeded that of Elimelech’s, mixed with a deep green of arrogance and pride.

Boaz turned to the Benjaminite defenders of Givaah and could not tell the difference between their aura and the rest of Israel. It too was a mix of sharp red and green. He did notice the radiant blue pride of Prince Gilter. His attention was then drawn to a sickly yellow of fear, mixed with a grey steely determination. That’s Ehud! Boaz thought to himself. Ehud is the only one who could give me pause in battle. None in Israel could match my speed or reflexes, but Ehud has a natural cunning, an instinct in battle and strategy that might overwhelm my combat prowess. 

“Boaz,” Elimelech broke Boaz’s concentration. “Inspecting the enemy with your ‘sight’? Good. We are counting on you. With your speed and power you should be able to break their defenses single-handedly.”

“They are our brothers, uncle; not some foreign enemy. I shall strive to bring this fight to a quick end.”

“We are at war long-coming, Boaz. We have no choice but to kill and lay low this most arrogant of tribes. Once we have humbled them and they have accepted our judgment, we can welcome them again in brotherly embrace. Now go to your regiment. You will be in the lead. I shall launch the attack shortly.”

 

 

 

“Elimelech is neither subtle nor patient,” Ehud said to Prince Giltar as they faced the largest army in the history of their young tribe. The Tribe of Judah moved into formation opposite the gates of Givaah, while the rest of the tribes kept a perimeter, hundreds of thousands of men strong, around the entire city. “They shall send Boaz and his men first, thereby hoping for a quick victory. Boaz is uncommonly fast and deadly, and reacts instinctively to his enemies moves. It will be very hard to stop him.”

“You are the master strategist, Ehud. Advise us,” Prince Giltar ordered.

“I advised giving up the men, but that was ignored.”

“Do you aim to weaken our hand? Advise us in battle! It is both wrong and late to give up our men. They are our brothers. In any case, if it were not this issue there would be another that would bring them upon our doorstep. We shall have to hold them off to the best of our ability and teach them the price of forcing submission upon us. Now how should we proceed?”

“We need to neutralize Boaz as soon as possible, or he will wreck havoc upon our defenses. I will take a battalion of our sharpest sling throwers to deal with him. Watch out for arrows though. Elimelech is angry enough to start with a volley to soften us up. Shields at hand!” Ehud yelled as he assembled his sling throwers.

A regiment of Judah with Boaz in the lead ran towards the Benjaminite defenders of Givaah. Archers of Judah fired thousands of arrows in the air ahead of them.

“Shields up!” Ehud yelled. Moments later, thousands of arrows thudded into wooden shields. Not one defender of Benjamin was felled. Heartened, Ehud commanded: “Charge!”

Ehud saw Boaz speed ahead of the attackers. He’s not as fast as in the past, Ehud thought. Is it age, or is his heart not in this battle?

“Slings ready!” Ehud ordered as Boaz raced nearer.

“Wide spread on Boaz! Fire!”

A wall of stones shot out towards Boaz. Boaz turned to the side in a blur and raced the wave of flying projectiles. Boaz almost escaped the cloud of stones, when one struck him in the ankle, tripping him. Boaz caught his balance and continued to run ahead when two dozen stones hit him along his body. Boaz wobbled forward and finally three stones smashed into his head, dropping him to the floor unconscious. The Judeans paused in shock at the fall of their fabled commander.

“Forward!” Ehud ran towards the frozen Judeans, his battalion of sling throwers mowing down the attackers.

“Attack!” Prince Giltar yelled from behind. “All battalions engage the enemy!”

All the defenders of Givaah raced towards the Judeans, stones, arrows and spears flying. The Judeans, leaderless, as a man, retreated. The retreat turned into a rout. Benjaminite swordsmen slashed fleeing attackers. The Benjaminites cut into the main Judean camp as well as into the tribes holding the perimeter. In confusion, the tribes abandoned the perimeter, escaping the vicious Benjaminite counterattack.

“Fall back!” Ehud called out. “Fall back! We have done enough damage for one day.”

The other tribes continued to run in all directions from Givaah as the Benjaminites walked calmly back to their city. The battlefield was strewn with corpses. The soldiers looked for any fallen comrades, but did not find even one Benjaminite defender. Every single one of the dead was from the other tribes. Ehud was overwhelmed by the number of dead. He estimated it must be around twenty thousand. The Levites who would attend to all the corpses later in the day would place the number at twenty-two thousand. Never in the history of Israelhad a disaster of such proportions occurred. Ehud wept openly as he noticed familiar faces amongst the dead. Cousins of Boaz and Elimelech whom he had grown up with. Captains and officers whom he had trained. Even fellow brothers-in-arms from his days leading the militia. Is this the price? Ehud cried to himself. Is this the price of independence? To slaughter our brothers? This cannot be right!

Ehud sought Boaz.

Boaz lay in a shallow pool of his own blood. Rivulets of red trickled down the prone man’s forehead, gathering under his submerged ear. Ehud saw that Boaz was breathing. He ripped cloth off a nearby corpse, wiped the wound on the forehead and then tied a dry cloth around Boaz’s head to stop the bleeding.

Boaz moaned and opened his eyes groggily.

“The wound is not so bad. You’ll live, though you may not thank me for it,” Ehud said sadly.

“What happened?” Boaz sat up slowly.

“You lost. Badly. Levites are coming to deal with the dead and some of your men are coming to help the wounded. Tell Elimelech to stop. This is a catastrophe. He shouldn’t make it worse.”

Boaz looked around, surveying all of the corpses. Tears flowed from his eyes, cleaning a thin path through the fresh blood on his cheeks.

“How could it be worse than this?”

“He could win.”

Ehud patted Boaz on the shoulder and trudged wearily back to Givaah.

 

 

“We should never have relied on one man!” Elimelech banged his fist on the table in his tent. “It was a massacre.”

“Boaz has never been a supporter of this cause,” Gheda the Levite intoned.

“You would accuse my nephew? You think he wanted this? Twenty-two thousand dead? He led the assault. He almost died himself out there. No. Somehow they read our intentions and targeted their fire upon Boaz.”

“I have heard that he consulted with the enemy after the battle. That the son of Gerah himself tended to Boaz’s wounds.”

“Enough! Perhaps we must reconsider. For us to suffer such heavy losses against a smaller, weaker enemy is beyond bad fortune. It was reported that Benjamin did not lose a man.”

“You would stop now?” Gheda said. “Twenty-two thousand sacrificed for nothing!?”

“Let us consult with the priest. He has disapproved of this from the beginning, but he is not being open with me and somehow I’m asking the wrong questions of him. Let us seek Pinhas.”

Elimelech and Gheda left their tent and found Pinhas in the center of the camp of the Princes. A large mass of officers and captains sat on the ground around the High Priest, weeping and swaying. Many had ripped their garments in mourning. The pair made their way through the crowd to Pinhas. Pinhas sat on the ground, his garments intact, yet his face mirrored a heart sundered.

“Pinhas, I must consult with you.”

“Choose your question wisely, Prince of Judah,” Pinhas said without looking up. “Your words and thoughts are a channel of all of Israel to God. It is a heavy responsibility and one that has been both abused and punished this day. You may yet rue your position of leadership.”

Elimelech paused. He looked at the warriors sitting on the floor, crying like bereft children. Everyone he saw had lost someone they had known and loved, just hours before. In the morning the tribes had been so confident of their purpose and their victory. Elimelech tasted bile in his mouth as he warred within himself. We still have superiority of numbers, Elimelech thought.

“Should I once again go to war against the sons of Benjamin, my brother?” Elimelech asked with pain and humility.

Pinhas nodded briefly and closed his eyes. The letters of the breastplate shone once again, but in a different sequence. Pinhas hesitated, as if waiting for further details or confirmation. None came. He opened his eyes, but did not look at Elimelech. Then slowly, as if declaring a death sentence he announced:

“Go up against them.”

 

* * * * * *

 

Biblical Sources:

 

Book of Judges, Chapter 19:

12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying: ‘What wickedness is this that is come to pass among you? 13 Now therefore deliver up the men, the base fellows that are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.’ But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel. 14 And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of their cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel. 15 And the children of Benjamin numbered on that day out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who numbered seven hundred chosen men. 16 All this people, even seven hundred chosen men, were left-handed; every one could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss. {P}

17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword; all these were men of war. 18 And the children of Israel arose, and went up to Beth-el, and asked counsel of God; and they said: ‘Who shall go up for us first to battle against the children of Benjamin?’ And the Lord said: ‘Judah first.’ 19 And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel set the battle in array against them at Gibeah. 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites on that day twenty and two thousand men. 22 And the people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves, and set the battle again in array in the place where they set themselves in array the first day. 23 And the children ofIsrael went up and wept before the Lord until even; and they asked of the Lord, saying: ‘Shall I again draw nigh to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?’ And the Lord said: ‘Go up against him.’

 

 

 

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